Felz’ Plea Deal Looking Sweeter

Today Joe Felz’ attorney Bob Hickey entered North Court and had a closed door meeting with the DA and the judge. When they emerged, the pre-trial hearing had been rescheduled once again to August 14. The delays clearly represent the formation of some sort of plea deal for Felz. The whole darn thing got me thinkin’…

File photo

Plea deals occur because both the DA and the accused want to avoid the cost of a trial. Normally the DA would have the upper hand, as he has the ability to offer reduced charges and penalties. The defendant comes to the table with nothing except the ability to waste the DA’s time, at a great personal cost. Lawyers are expensive.

In Felz’ case, there was an extra card to play. Felz knew that a trial burdened the DA and the City of Fullerton with the added threat of public exposure. Police Chief Danny Hughes and Sergeant Jeff Corbett had committed obstruction of justice that night when drunk driving Felz was driven home instead of being arrested. The city and its police department needed to keep this quiet and keep themselves free from any courtroom scrutiny. Felz, on the other hand, didn’t have much to lose.

In case you forgot.

When DA Investigator Abraham Santos’ blew the whistle in May, the odds tilted heavily in Felz’ favor. For the DA, a Felz DUI trial suddenly meant the opportunity for Hickey to dig into the Hughes/DA collusion. The threat of reputational damage to both the institutions and the individual players is suddenly enormous leverage against the DA. Hell, Hickey might even be able to get Santos to testify against the DA and Hughes on the stand. Savage!

So today things aren’t looking to good for the prosecution, who’s already mired in scandal and has little to gain from pushing the Felz case anyway (what’s another DUI conviction? North Court is full of ’em.) While each delay keeps Felz unemployable for a bit longer, it also brings the promise of a dropped case or a neutered plea deal. Keep your eyes out for either one.

Coming Up For Air

In FFFF’s early days, this blog noted how the Fullerton Observer and its “editor” Sharon Kennedy would bend over backwards to avoid printing anything that might embarrass City officialdom. In the years after that blog post, the Observer remained true to form. It continually went to bat for the bureaucrats in increasingly shameful ways, even when it violated the tenets of the Yellowing Observer’s own professed liberalism. The culmination, perhaps, was the Observer’s series of misdirections and avoidances in the wake of the Kelly Thomas murder in 2011.

It’s dark in here.

But wait. One of our Friends just noticed that the front page of the latest Observer includes an unexpected headline. The article seems to acknowledge the recent claims of corruption in city hall as asserted by the OC DA investigator Abraham Santos.

The piece discusses the facts of the claims against Dan Hughes and Joe Felz without the insertion of Kennedy’s usual dismissive editorial remarks. How could this happen? Is Kennedy turning over a new leaf?

No. This is the work of the Observer’s new co-editor, Jesse La Tour. How he managed to slip this honest piece of work past Kennedy, we may never know.

Kangaroo Court Transcript Reveals Felzian Development Scheme

Remember that quasi-judicial nuisance hearing against the Grand Inn back in April? The one where former police chief Danny Hughes went under oath and accidentally told us that Joe Felz was drunk when he crashed his car and got a ride home from the Fullerton PD?

After some wrangling down at city hall, FFFF finally got its hands on the entire hearing transcript, which you can view here.

It got ugly real fast.

The transcript reveals that former city manager Joe Felz did meet with developer Urban West to discuss purchasing, assembling and rezoning the four lots on Euclid and Orangethorpe to build high-density apartments, which included a large lot owned by Renick Cadillac. Unfortunately for Felz and Co., one of the lots was owned by an unwilling participant, the Grand Inn.

Coincidentally (or not), these development meetings occurred just prior to a long, expensive effort by the Fullerton Police to document the Grand Inn as a public nuisance in order to shut it down. Was the sudden crackdown on the Grand Inn related to the Felz/Renick/Urban West development deal? Of course Felz denied the accusation under oath, much like he denies being drunk when he crashed into a poor sapling on Highland. But to the reasonable observer, it stinks like hell. In Fullerton, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Your honor, I do not recall…

If you still haven’t connected the dots yet, consider the PD’s year-long effort to attribute nearby crimes to the Grand Inn in the context of the police department’s complete disregard for the large volume of calls stemming from the actual public nuisance that is the Slidebar.

In true Fullerton fashion, Mr. Felz could not get through the hearing without invoking his right to not incriminate himself.

Back to the development scheme – which would not be complete without the insertion of our favorite lobbyist/councilperson. In the testimony we learn that Jennifer Fitzgerald had met with Renick and Felz at least once in the early stages of this fiasco. We’ll never know the depth of her involvement with the developer, or whether she was wearing her lobbyist hat or her elected official hat at the time. But we can assume she was aware of the value of her vote, should a lucrative zone change come before the council in the near future.

It was just a meeting.

Either way, Renick and Urban West seem to have given up on the deal, since Renick is now rebuilding its showrooms. But the city is stuck pursuing it’s selective enforcement action against the Grand Inn (or are they?). More taxpayer money goes down the drain while nothing is accomplished.

Proud Leaders in DUI Enforcement

The Fullerton PD marketing apparatus is still trying to convince the public that some sort of equitable enforcement of DUI exists. Check out today’s promulgation:

This is the very same police department that attempted to cover up a DUI collision committed by its own city manager just a few months ago. Now that we know former police chief Dan Hughes was committing criminal obstruction of justice (according to the OCDA investigator assigned to the case), this propaganda seems even more ridiculous.

One more thing to note: Temporary police chief Hinig is gone, and so Fullerton police are being led by Dan Hughes’ own hand-picked captains Siko and Rudisil. While Hughes’ legacy of corruption and obstruction may become the subject of interest in the ongoing federal probes into the OCDA, it is silly to think that our police department’s age of shame ended with Hughes’ departure.

DA Investigator Blows Whistle on Felz DUI Coverup

Add Another Item for the DOJ and State Attorneys to Investigate

The Joe Felz DUI case just took another wide turn and this time not over a tree. New allegations have arisen within the Orange County District Attorney’s Office:

One of the allegations, listed only by [investigator Abraham] Santos, involves an election night car crash by Fullerton’s then City Manager Joe Felz on Nov. 9, 2016. A Fullerton police officer, who responded to the scene, notified the city’s then Police Chief Dan Hughes, who contacted a police sergeant and allegedly told him to drive Felz home instead of arresting him.

Santos’ investigation later concluded that Hughes was calling in a favor allegedly owed by a sergeant. That sergeant, according to Santos’ claim, had once been caught having sex in a police car but was never disciplined.

“Chief Hughes covered up the misconduct by his sergeant and, when he needed him in the Joe Felz DUI/attempted hit-and-run case, (the sergeant) repaid the favor to Chief Hughes,” said the claim.

Santos’ subsequent investigation of the incident concluded that Hughes “criminally obstructed justice.” But the county never filed a charge against Hughes. Santos, in his claim, said Assistant District Attorney Ibrahim Baytieh told him, “I am friends with Chief Hughes and we are only going to be investigating the DUI and nothing else.”

Let us repeat part of that for emphasis.

“Santos’ subsequent investigation of the incident concluded that Hughes “criminally obstructed justice.””

This isn’t your run of the mill water-cooler talk either as it was disclosed in an official complaint with the OCDA’s office. Pertinent Screenshots as follows:

DA Complaint abt Felz Case

DA Complaint abt Felz Case2

This seems to be par for the course for the OCDA being that Supervisor Todd Spitzer has asked the US Department of Justice to take over their operations owing to an ongoing Jail Snitch scandal amogst other trying issues. Things have gotten pretty bad at the OCDA. So much so that the U.S. Dept. of Justice, the California Attorney General & the Orange County Grand Jury are all separately investigating the OCDA for “systemic” cheating in the jail snitch program. While speculative it wouldn’t be surprising for this Felz DUI Cover-up case to be sucked into the investigations.

We in Fullerton were told time and again that Hughes reformed the department. We were told that he was the man we needed for the job. If these allegations are true it means that not only did he cover-up previous misconduct regarding officer Corbett but he then used that previous cover-up to bury another more egregious case. One cannot have a reformed department if the man in charge is not only participating in coverups but using them as leverage for later ones.

If the rot at FPD started with the head down did it permeate other parts of our city as well? If an Assistant District Attorney refused to look into Hughes owing to a personal friendship did others likewise turn a blind eye to corruption and criminal wrongdoings? Considering how often our own Jennifer Fitzgerald proclaimed her friendship to both Hughes and Felz one must wonder how much misconduct she was aware of and if she was aware did she help cover anything up while she’s been on council?

This further begs the question of how Disney feels about having a potential felon in Fantasyland?

Disney Danny.

Can We Get A Refund For The Stairs?

It happened pretty quickly, just like a UFO sighting, and just as rare: a Fullerton councilperson suggesting accountability. But here you see Greg Sebourn raising the embarrassing subject of the lamentable Hillcrest Park “stairs to nowhere.”

If you’ve been paying attention, you know very well by now that these rickety looking wooden “exercise” stairs are a $1.6 million waste, a genuine Fullerton-type boondoggle that nobody outside City Hall wanted; a mess compounded by what can only be called substandard materials, workmanship and incompetent oversight – and that’s being charitable.

No, Greg, we cannot get a refund and good luck finding anybody to second a motion to do a full and complete audit of this project to find out how and why the whole thing went sideways so badly.

More Pine Forest Steps Fail

In case you needed any more evidence of the slipshod way the “exercise stairs” at Hillcrest Park were built, I offer in evidence some images taken by the FFFF Construction Field Documentation Team (CFDT) that has been awfully busy lately examining the many failures at the “Pine Forest Stairs” to nowhere.

Here is what the foundations are supposed to look like:

Here is what happened at one location. The top of the caisson was too high and had to be broken out to accommodate a post or cross beam supporting the stair stringer. Unfortunately the rebar in the caisson has been exposed to rust away and eventually spall the concrete.

Here’s a location where a large chunk of the caisson has mysteriously broken off. Here there is no reinforcing steel in sight.

And finally, here’s an example of what can happen when you decide to sink a big 6″x 6″ wood post into concrete:

Apparently many of the caissons are already cracking just like this one. Are these structures even safe? Will our common seismic events cause serious problems? I’m not privy to those answers, but I can tell you that there’s no way I’m getting on those things.

And just for fun, note that the contractor reworked the top the caisson to get water to run off. This sloppy effort is going to flake off – exposing the post to a permanent puddle.

It’s hard to believe that “professionals” inside and outside of City Hall were extremely well paid to oversee this hodgepodge of construction horrors, but there you have it. $1.6 million dollars and this is the best Fullerton can do.

 

Who Was in Charge?

During our series on the ill-fated, $1.6 million dollar “exercise stairs” in Hillcrest Park, some of our Friends correctly noted the problem of the wood support posts that had been poured into the concrete caissons that hold the whole structure up. Obviously, something went wrong. Notice how none of the posts are centered on the caissons, and some are barely two inches from the outside of the concrete, leading me to wonder how they managed to fit a rebar reinforcement inside the caisson.

Something didn’t quite line up…

From the project drawings, here is how the caisson and post are supposed to be aligned. The post centers on the caisson with 4 rebars equally spaced around it. Please notice the 3″ minimum clearance from the rebar to the outside of the concrete.

Clearly the footings and posts were built incorrectly. Obviously the caissons holes were drilled in the wrong places – and the construction manager must have agreed to let this pass. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what happens. If the footings crack them may have to be replaced – and they weren’t built to be replaced.

This whole mess made me wonder about why the posts were sunk into the concrete in the first place – a very odd situation given that the expansion and contraction of the posts, when wet, could lead to potential concrete cracking and spalling, especially when the post is near the outer rim of the caisson.

It turns out I wasn’t alone. Here is a string of e-mails from the contractor, construction manager, and the architect discussing the redesign of the caissons and posts to a hardware connection – a solution that would make the replacement of the posts significantly easier. The contractor was willing to do this and add the necessary cross bracing at no cost to the City.

Request denied.

I wonder what will happen when the concrete caissons crack, or when the posts rot out. The architect seems to think the posts will outlast the rest of the rickety framing. I wonder which will go first.

Rusty’s Trombone

Brazenly hypocritical? Check. Shiningly self-righteous? Check. Slavishly sycophantic? Check.

Here is the Director of  the OC Human Relations Council, Fullerton’s own Rusty Kennedy (in a letter to his sister’s Fullerton Observer)  simultaneously congratulating himself and his fellow professional do-gooders,  boot-licking the County Supervisors who will soon reflect upon the merits of Kennedy’s operation, and of course, denigrating all the citizens who are rightfully concerned that having several hundred homeless people imported into the vicinity of their homes, schools and businesses are misguided, etc., etc.

Of course none of this semi-literate screed is surprising. In fact it’s all old stuff – particularly the nauseating part about the death of Kelly Thomas being some sort of wake up call. From the very beginning of that saga, Fullerton’s old guard liberals were determined to make the death of Thomas at the hands of six FPD goons a homeless issue, instead of what it really was – the worst example of a police department mired in corruption, incompetence and denial.

For Rusty Kennedy in particular, this distraction was essential and based on his own self-interest. Kennedy’s crew collects income from local police departments who “partner” with him in the aftermath of one of their outrages, ostensibly to calm troubled waters, until the next crisis. He relies upon police chiefs to recommend him and his “council” to be the County’s operator of another useless organization: the OC Human Relations Commission. And that contract is reviewed periodically as part of the County’s frugality theater kabuki.

Elevators to Nowhere – The Rising Cost Hits Fullerton Directly

Here’s the final (for now) installment of the series by our Friend “Fullerton Engineer” documenting the sad history of the project to add a couple of elevators to the existing tower/bridge structure at the DepotRemarkably, none of our elected representatives seems the least bit curious about the downward trajectory of this project, or the ultimate tap into our Facility Capital Repair Fund, a fund that was never intended to pay for new construction, particularly for projects never needed in the first place.  

The best way of avoiding embarrassing information is not to ask embarrassing questions. It’s not their money.

It may have been expensive, but it sure was unnecessary…

It took over five years, but the astonishingly high cost of an elevator addition project at the Fullerton train station finally hit Fullerton taxpayers directly in 2017.

The project that the public never asked for and doesn’t need was initiated based not on necessisity, but on the availability of money from Sacramento; and later, OCTA came to the funding rescue. But the delays piled up – year after year, and OCTA would no longer pay the bill. So in March, the City Engineer, Don Hoppe, came hat in hand and asked the Fullerton taxpayers for money. Lots of it. Here’s the staff report.

Notice how the various and diverse issues are all thrown together into a single sum – $600,000. We see added cost for the railroad flagging for some unexplained reason; the curiosity of “unforeseen” utilities on a well-developed site; an unknown amount to pay for the escalated cost of the elevator subcontractor; and finally, an unspecified amount to cover “additional assistant (sic) in contract administration” a nebulous term, but a category clearly meant to cover the ongoing cost of someone in the Public Works department.  The final item is particularly ironic given the amounts already contracted with private companies for construction support and management on this very small project.

The simple fact that these items are lumped together can only be explained by an attempt to obfuscate the nature and trues costs of the ongoing delay. And those delay costs are increasing even now, as the project seems to have stalled again.

— Fullerton Engineer